how to stop drinking alcohol

On some level of consciousness, we know when we are pushing the envelope on a particular weakness or vice. For some it might be indulging too often in sweets or rich foods, resulting in weight gain and health conditions. For others it might be a problem with impulsive shopping, landing them in deep credit card debt. For many, it is drinking too much. Alcohol consumption can be an enjoyable treat when it can be managed. A glass of wine at dinner or a beer after a hard day’s work are a couple of examples of moderation that will likely not have any horrible consequences.

However, when our drinking behavior gets away from us it can result in alcohol addiction or dependency, a serious disease that can wreak havoc on one’s life. Alcoholism sneaks up on a person, often planting its hooks in the brain with no warning. Our society is saturated with reasons to imbibe—celebrations, work-related outings, watching football games—just about any social gathering involves the presence of alcohol.

For someone who might have a family history of alcoholism, the disease can creep in swiftly. The brain’s reward system locks down the reflexive addiction behaviors in response to the initial pleasurable affect experienced. Tolerance increases as does consumption levels, and suddenly it seems your ability to control or manage your alcohol intake is compromised.

Someone with a recent problem with alcohol may be able to just go cold turkey and simply stop drinking. For others who have a long history of alcohol abuse, knowing how to stop drinking alcohol safely is extremely important. Alcohol detoxification can be a difficult process with sudden, unpredictable withdrawal symptoms that may pose a serious health hazard. With this in mind, addiction experts recommend that alcohol detox and withdrawal take place within a medically supervised setting.

About Alcohol Use Disorder

When alcohol use becomes problematic it is considered an alcohol use disorder (AUD). According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 16 million Americans struggle with an AUD. Depending on how man of the diagnostic symptoms are experienced in a one year period, the AUD is assessed as mild, moderate, or severe.

For someone with a mild AUD wondering how to stop drinking alcohol safely, they may be able to incrementally cut back on alcohol over a period of a couple of weeks until they are fully abstinent from the substance. Combining that will attending 12-step meetings and embracing a sober lifestyle is a possible avenue for those with mild AUD.

For moderate to severe AUD, however, it is always advised that a supervised detox is in order where withdrawal symptoms and vital signs can be carefully monitored. The 11 criteria for identifying an AUD include these questions:

  • Have you had occasions where you drank more or longer than intended?
  • Have you attempted to cut back or stop drinking, on more than one occasion, but couldn’t?
  • Do you spend a lot of time drinking or recovering from its aftereffects?
  • Do you experience alcohol cravings?
  • Has your alcohol use caused you to neglect family obligations, or caused problems at work or in school?
  • Have you continued to consume alcohol regardless of these problems?
  • Have you lost interest in, or discontinued, activities or hobbies you once enjoyed?
  • Have you engaged in high risk behaviors due to alcohol consumption?
  • Do you continue to drink even with it causing mental health or medical problems or a blackout?
  • Have you increased your alcohol consumption to achieve the initial effects once experienced?
  • Do you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the alcohol are wearing off?

Answering yes to 2 or 3 questions indicates a mild AUD, 4 or 5 indicates a moderate AUD, and over 6 indicates a severe AUD.

How to Stop Drinking Alcohol Safely With Medical Detox

Once someone recognizes that they have a problem with alcohol consumption and decides to get help, they will likely need to undergo a medical detox before starting treatment. This is required so the individual is sober, clearheaded, and stabilized before entering the treatment program so they can fully engage in their recovery. During the medical detox the vital signs will be closely monitored. Severe symptoms can suddenly appear on days 3 or 4 of the detox process, which is why there is such close supervision.

As the withdrawal symptoms commence and intensify, the detox specialists will offer various medications to ease discomfort and prevent seizures. There will be medication provided for the nausea and diarrhea, fever, and headache, and benzodiazepines are offered for the insomnia, anxiety symptoms, and seizure prevention.

Alcohol detox takes about 5-7 days with most symptoms subsiding at that point. 

Next Steps in Recovery

Following the medical detox process, the individual will be ready to begin treatment. Treatment for alcoholism involves an integrated approach accessing evidence-based psychotherapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and others, along with other activities that will compliment the traditional therapies. This might include recreational therapy, holistic therapies, experiential activities, nutritional counseling, and relapse prevention strategizing.

After completing the rehab program, which can last 1-12 months depending on the severity of the AUD, the continuing care services should come into play. These help to reinforce recovery efforts during the early months following rehab, as it is a vulnerable time that can result in relapse. Continuing care might include sober living housing, ongoing therapy at an outpatient rehab, and attending recovery community meetings such as A.A. or SMART Recovery.

Capo By the Sea Leading Luxury Alcohol Treatment Center Orange County

Capo By the Sea is a premier rehab located in an idyllic beach community in Southern California. Knowing how to stop drinking alcohol safely, at Capo By the Sea, our expert clinical staff will guide individuals through a medically monitored detox program as comfortably as possible. Our comprehensive addiction treatment program will provide the necessary recovery tools that will help ensure our clients enjoy a sustained recovery. For more information, please reach out to Capo By the Sea today at 888-529-2114.